A special place

by Mike Isle

Selwyn has a special haven that provides a safe and fun learning environment for children and teenagers struggling with high anxiety, low self-esteem and lack of confidence.

The Buddy Zone is the brainchild of behavioural consultant Dawn Wilson who developed the idea after working with children with social deficits in the United Kingdom and New Zealand after her arrival here 15 years ago. She said the concept for an after-school programme that would help children with social anxiety by offering a “zone” where they could be welcomed, relaxed and non-judged had been germinating for some time but was thrust into sharp relief by the Christchurch earthquakes.

“After the earthquakes struck most of my work as a behavioural consultant was working with children with social anxieties. There was a huge workload, and that was when I decided that I needed to do more than one-on-one teaching. That is how the concept of a Buddy Zone started where I could work with more children, and they could enjoy the social interaction with others.”

Mrs Wilson said she started her first Buddy Zone in Christchurch two years ago and the second, in Rolleston, 15 months ago. At each zone, students take part in a one-hour structured small group session each week. The sessions include social games, interactive group activities and simple daily life skills. There are zones within the zone. The Buddy Zone Junior Crew, which caters to children age six to 12 years is in both Rolleston and Christchurch; and there is a Teen Zone for 13 to 16-year-olds, which is only in Christchurch at present.

Mrs Wilson said that since she started her Buddy Zone in Rolleston, she and her team of teacher-aids had seen 30 children either complete the programme or continue in it.

The parent of one of those children said she had seen significant improvements in the behaviour of her son since he started the programme. “The difference in his ability to interact with others, understand and relate to his peers and the excitement of participating every week, has been a great reflection on the programme offered by Dawn and her team,” she said.

Website: thebuddyzone.com or contact Dawn at office@thebuddyzone.com.